Visit Iceland for our beautiful natural landscapes, but don’t forget about our lively art scene! Reykjavik, especially, has museums and galleries filled with fantastic pieces of creativity. So much so that it spills out into the open; come enjoy the Reykjavik outdoor art! Walk around the streets, by the water, through our parks, and you’ll see artworks and sculptures. and murals galore.
Your Friend in Reykjavik wants to share our favorite and unique works that make our city a work of art!
Reykjavik Outdoor Art: Sculpture and Shore Walk
From the Harpa Hall to the Laugardalslaug outdoor thermal pool, you can walk along Sæbraut Street for brilliant sea views and sculptures on the Sculpture and Shore Walk.
Possibly the most iconic image for any visit to Reykjavik, the Sun Voyager sits out facing the water like a Viking ship ready to set sail to undiscovered lands. Created by Jón Gunnar Árnason in 1986, with a full-scale version installed in 1990, this dreamboat was apparently inspired by the thought that Mongolian explorers visited Iceland.
Further along the Sæbraut Street shore walk, you’ll see what looks like a split arrow pushing its way through from the earth. That is The Partnership, a sculpture by Pétur Bjarnason given as a gift from the US to Iceland to celebrate 50 years of diplomatic relations between the two countries. What began as a foothold in a neutral country to protect shipping routes during World War 2 blossomed into a vibrant cultural and commercial relationship!
Jóhann Eyfells created homages to cairns of rocks and molten lava being used as signposts and landmarks to help travelers find their way. If you want to see the landscape in new ways, have a look through the keyhole and other nooks for a focused view to the other side. There are a few variations around the city, but this one sits along the shore for even more interesting sights at every angle!
Einar Jónsson statue walk
Considered the “first” sculptor of Iceland, there are many works by Einar Jónsson adorning Reykjavik outdoors. He drew his inspiration from Iceland’s history, culture, and folklore as well as other sources, near and far. A bit of a maverick and very imaginative, you can wander the Einar Jónsson Museum to the National Theater and around Tjornin Pond, admiring his work as part of the Reykjavik outdoor art scene.
By the National Art Museum, across the traffic circle, you’ll find the Outlaws. One of his first pieces, it debuted in Copenhagen in 1901. The Danes were apparently not that impressed, but we loved it because it represents the iconic free spirit often featured in folktales. Carrying his wife and child, protected by his loyal dog (or is that a wolf?), he toils onward, a symbol of strength and independence!
The Spell Broken
Seemingly inspired by the story of St. George and the dragon, this work shows a knight bravely slaying a dragon as he frees a damsel in distress. Good triumphs over evil, and all is well in the world, at least for that moment. Plus, you get fantastic views of the pond.
Along the way, you can also see his representations of Iceland’s poet Jónas Hallgrímsson. Not to be confused with the poet honored with Hallgrímskirkja – that’s Hallgrímur Pétursson, who came a few hundred years before Jonas. Other historic figures commemorated in art by Einar are Jón Sigurðsson, a fighter for Iceland’s independence, and King Christian the 9th of Denmark, who was not so much fighting for Iceland’s independence. And whether you start or end at the Einar Jónsson Museum, you should set aside time to explore the sculpture gardens on its grounds as well. It’s open all year round and free to enjoy!
Reykjavik Outdoor Art: Funky Street Art and Murals
For those with a more “modern” artistic taste, Reykjavik also has a thriving street art culture. We go beyond simple graffiti tags on warehouses to full-blown murals along historic residential blocks. We have our own home-grown talents, and with the Wall Poetry moment borne from the Iceland Airwaves music festival, street artists from around the world joined in and made our city an international gallery.
Let Your Friend In Reykjavik Share Our Faves!
This is just a small sample of Reykjavik’s outdoor art. There are other sculptures like the Unknown Bureaucrat and the Þúfa (essentially a man-made hill, but it’s art to us!) as well as plenty more street art. Also, you should check out the art we have indoors in our many museums and galleries. What better way to find out about all how creativity flows through practically every corner of Reykjavik than with a walking tour with Your Friend in Reykjavik? Our expert guides are waiting to show you the beautiful and quirky artistic sides of our hometown. Join a group or sign up for a private tour – we have plenty of options for you to choose from. Check out our offerings today!
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